Friday, January 29, 2010

San Francisco Giants Prepare Baseball Park for Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship

It's going to be a dirty but thrilling weekend down at the San Francisco Giants' baseball park.

The spruced green turf is covered with plastic sheeting and wood and has become a building site. All in preparation for one of the Giants' biggest events of the year, the  Monster Energy AMA Supercross FIM World Championship.

Denny Hartwig, press spokesman for the event, is expecting a stadium of over 40,000 people.

Last year saw a large crowd attend, 'but we're attracting better than last year,' he said.

'Everywhere we go in San Francisco there are welcome arms and everyone here seems to have some kind of interest in motorcyles, either in the street or in sport. I think we have a built-in fan base,' he said.

Bringing the huge, annual event to San Francisco, the only Northern California location of the championship, has a distinctive feel.

'It's cool!' Denny said. He is from Chicago, and says the downtown feel of the AT & T Park is quite different. 'It's a big park...and this is a huge major city in the US, but it feels like a neighbourhood venue.'

The event, sponsored locally by Big O Tires, is only the fourth so far in the world championship series of 17 races. Outside the ballpark today, a mobile office for promoters, Feld Motor Sports,  was in action, and  the area around McCovey Cove is a gigantic truck fest.

A mobile medical center with rescue jeeps is parked immediately outside the gates on the cove side, and across the water the Giants' grounds have been transformed into the pits, with trucks gleaming with team and sponsorship logos.

At midday, the pits were quite quiet with only a few mechanics and team managers around.

Enjoying a casual lunch under their canopy were the Yamaha team of mechanics with Team Manager, Brad Hoffman.

Brad leads the Factory Yamaha 250 cc Team, which has two West Coast riders. His young charges are 19-year-old Broc Tickle and one of the youngest competitors, 16-year-old Max Anstie.

Brad has high hopes for them. 'These guys have been, speedwise, capable of winning, they've won qualifying races, but they have made some mistakes in the main races.'

Their highest placing has been fifth, but Brad is optimistic that a win is there for the taking on the track. Of tomorrow, he said, 'We hope to be on the podium - top 3. Our guys are all fast enough to do it. You have to have a (good) start, be fast and not make mistakes.'

So what makes a star rider?

'You have to have riding ability, kind of a natural talent,' said Brad, but after that boys 'train like a top athlete.' They cycle, go to gyms and focus on nutrition. 'Most of these kids have been riding since they were three-or -four-years-old,' he said, 'and that's because dad's rode or raced.'

At 16 years, Max, who's father was a professional rider in England, is at the youngest age possible for someone to enter the sport professionally. In the 250 cc range, the top age is around 25 years, whereas in the 450 cc class, riders continue into their 30s.

Brad has worked his way through the sport beginning as a rider - 'I went pretty far at amateur level' - then training as a mechanic before becoming a Team Manager. pic Dave, Ricky, Eric Brad, Karl

Under the Dunlop canopy, there was a small production line energetically fitting tyres onto wheels. The team kit out all 80 bikes in the competition.

Of the new tyres, Brady said, 'They're more intermediate whereas normally it's a hardpack.'

Both Brady - centre pic - and John - left - run their own businesses during the week, Brady an engine repair business in Michigan, and John, a motorcycle shop in Murrieta, Southern California.

Why do they work for supercross at weekends?

'I like it a lot!' said John with great enthusiasm.

'There's something different every week. I get to work with a good group of guys,' said Brady.

Safety is paramount and Risk and Safety Officer, Joe, who works for the promoters, was wandering around the ballpark late this afternoon.

How does he find the burden of responsibility?

'It's pretty laid back. It's all about common sense, there's not a book on it,' said the Ohio man who has been running the safety aspects of the races for 32 years. His number one priority is 'safety of people on the floor. There's no place where you are immune from being hit with a motor cycle.'

A safety upgrade is that every group of workers is colour-coded by their clothing, eg TV crews, of which there are only two, 'house' and CBS, flag stewards, promotors, medics. Instead of having to scrutinize identity tags, Joe can see at a glance where everyone is and, importantly, immediately pick out anyone who shouldn't be there.

Referring to the stands, he said, 'There are people up there - and he mimicked using binnoculars - and they're on the phone to me all the time. This is the greatest motor cycle spectacle in the world. This is very professional.'

And 40,000 people is no great shakes! There are 72,000 in Atlanta, Georgia, he tells me calmly.

Does he enjoy his job? 'I wouldn't be here if I didn't! I like meeting people, you meet people in all phases of life, that's an education,' he said.

Plus, there is one small bonus. For the 18 locations - 17 races and the US Open of Supercross - he sees home only on a Monday and Tuesday.

'Then I'm on vacation seven months of the year!' he said, with just a hint of a smile.

Someone who is ready to champion the riders is Scott, who had just purchased his ticket.

'It seems like they're really athletic, it's a real endurance race, and they don't get the recongnition they deserve for how hard and dangerous the sport is,' he said.

'And I feel they should get better TV time on prime time.'

All the $10 dollar tickets had gone, so Scott had a $25 dollar ticket, but paid $18 dollars with a coupon.

He's looking forward to tomorrow!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

One-Week Urgent Campaign by Environmentalists to Save Ocean Beach

A one-week urgent campaign against time and tide to save part of Ocean Beach has been launched by the Save the Waves Coalition and Surfrider Foundation. 

They are calling on people to write to the city's Board of Supervisors opposing plans to place a barrier of large rocks, known as 'armoring', on the beach, and to sign an online petition and attend next Tuesday's Board meeting when the issue will be reconsidered.

The race is against time because the San Francisco Board of Supervisors have given residents and environmentalists just one extra week to oppose Department of Public Works plans to use the rocks to prevent erosion. The armoring will cost $2.6 million.

And against tide, because recent winter storms have eaten away 30 ft of coastline and caused erosion of up to 70 ft since 2007, creating the emergency situation. The Great Highway running from Sloat Boulevard past the San Francisco Zoo has two southbound lanes closed, and a major 10-million gallon sewage pipe, the Lake Merced Wastewater Tunnel, is endangered as the erosion has gone under the road.

The Save the Waves Coalition, the San Francisco Chapter of  Surfrider Foundation, the Ocean Beach Vision Council and local residents presented their case  at a Board of Supervisors' meeting on Tuesday night. On Monday night, Lara Trupelli, chair of the Ocean Beach Vision Council had convened a town hall meeting at the Park Chalet for the DPW to present their plans to the community.

'The declaration plans to dump 300 yards (3 football fields) of boulder sized concrete blocks onto the beach and coastline. This would not only erode the coastline at a faster rate but also destroy the beach and use of it,' say SF Surfrider in their press release.

Environmentalists and residents are calling on the city to accept a 'managed retreat' solution that was proposed in 2003, to use sand to help reduce the rate of erosion, and to move the road and the pipe inland, but essentially to accept the natural process of erosion and preserve the use of the beach.

Part of that alternative could include rerouting traffic around the zoo, they say.

They blame the city for the current state of the coastline. Save the Waves say the issue has 'been a sore point for city officials, residents and environmentalists for almost two decades,' but the findings of the original Ocean Beach Task Force 'have been largely ignored by the City for over seven years. This inaction is partly responsible for the severe erosion problems and infrastructure risks that the City now faces.'

The Board of Supervisors' meeting at City Hall will be held at 2 pm on Tuesday, February 2.

info and petitions:

pics from Surfrider Foundation website

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Queen Victoria Leaves San Franicisco After Maiden Visit

With three blasts of her horn, the Queen Victoria edged cautiously away from her berth near Fisherman's Wharf at about 6.45 pm tonight after just a few hours in the city.

Surrounded by police boats she sailed close to the end of Pier 39 where a crowd of about 50 people had assembled to watch and take photos.

Then she sailed gracefully and slowly into the bay, taking half an hour before she went under the Golden Gate Bridge on her way to Hawaii.

The Queen Victoria entered the bay under the bridge at about 6.30 am today on her maiden visit to the city, as part of a round-the-world cruise. She docked at Pier 35 Cruise Terminal on the Embarcadero with about 800 passengers disembarking, either to leave the ship or spend a short time in San Francisco. About 200 new passengers also joined the cruise.

The Queen Victoria Makes Maiden Visit to San Fran - But Not All Passengers Are Happy

The Queen Victoria luxury liner made a maiden visit to San Francisco today as part of a world cruise.

Although she is only in port until 6 pm tonight, her passengers did not disembark until about 11 am. And, contrary to the sumptuous presentation of the ship on Cunard's website, not everyone is  happy with the cruise.

The enormous liner waited outside the bay in the dark this morning for a pilot boat, then sailed majestically under the Golden Gate Bridge at about 6.30 am to berth at Pier 35 near Fisherman's Wharf.

According to NBC11, a handful of people turned out on the Golden Gate Bridge to greet her.

As befitting a queen, the ship has 990 staterooms and can entertain 2,000 guests over 12 decks. Unlike our original queen, however, she weighs 90,000 tons, is 964.5 ft in length, 106 ft wide and 179 ft high.

Other people went to meet relatives or friends off the ship. And although they were expecting an early morning disembarkation, passengers were not streaming off the ship until about 11 am.

Andreina who lives in the Bay Area, stood on the pavement for three-and-a-half hours with daughter, Nicky, waiting to greet her 'good, good friends of 46 years.' They were Betty and Brian from Hampshire, England, whom she had not seen for 'many, many years.' They had joined the ship at the start of the world cruise on January 4 in Southampton.

'I was told the ship would dock at 6.30 am and passengers would be out at 8 am,' she said. 'Wishful thinking!' She had hurried across the Bay Bridge in traffic, telling her daughter, 'We're going to be late! We're going to be late!'

Instead, by late morning she was trying to keep her feet warm in the chill air, while behind her, a long queue of taxis also waited for hours.

Finally, Betty and Brian emerged onto the sidewalk at about 11.30 am.

What did they think of the Queen Victoria?

'Beautiful ship,' said Betty. 'But overall we were slightly disappointed,' said Brian. The interior of the ship, what Brian referred to as 'the fabric' wasn't at fault.

'Lovely people, lovely food,' said Betty, trying to be positive. 'Drinks are expensive,' added Brian.
pic: Brian, Andreina, Betty, Nicky

'It wasn't up to our expectations,' said Brian. 'I guess we were looking for something a little bit more top of the range.'

The couple are veteran cruisers, having done about seven or eight previous ones, but with the Norweigan company, Fred. Olsen Cruise Lines. This is their first Cunard cruise, and they won't be returning for another.

For three weeks on board, they had paid nearly £7,000 in total.

Judging from a website,, Brian and Betty were restrained in their comments. Yesterday, in Member Reviews, someone posted a comment with a litany of complaints over the food, entertainment, the attitude of some of the bar staff and room service.

According to a security guard at the pier entrance today, 800 people were to disembark, either to leave the ship or spend just a few hours in the city, and 200 new passengers were to board later.
One of the first couples to arrive, to hand over their luggage in advance of boarding, were Sandra and Jim from Sussex, England.

They had flown into San Francisco yesterday and were outside the pier at about 9 am. Veteran cruisers also, this will be their third voyage with the Queen Victoria - and the ship was only launched in December 2007!

What do they like about the ship?

'She's not too big - yes, Sandra really did say that! - and they look after you well,' were her comments, while Jim appreciated 'the activities during the day.'

The couple had flown to the city to join the ship here because they find that cruises taken from America are much cheaper. 'You get more for your dollar than your pound,' said Betty. As a couple, they have paid £8,000 for three weeks, and will be leaving the ship in Singapore to fly back to London.

But while they may be accustomed to the Queen Victoria, this is their first trip to San Francisco, and they were eager to enjoy a few hours here. Top of their sightseeing list was a trip to Alcatraz and a ride on the cable cars.

Also preparing to board was Helen, who will be one of the musicians on board. She rushed into the pier building to leave her luggage and a cello at the entrance, before dashing off to meet a friend.

On board, Helen, from London, will be playing a piano to accompany a flautist.

What had attracted her to the cruise?

'It's a very nice way to see and world, and it's work,' she said.

Tonight, Queen Victoria sails across the Pacific to Hawaii, the next stop on her 107-day cruise around the world.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Pier 39 Sea Lion, Abagnale, Recovering

 Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

Abagnale, the elusive Pier 39 sea lion rescued on Sunday, is continuing to recover in his pool at the Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito.

Now that staff have had time to assess him, they estimate his age to be about seven or eight years, and consider him to be about 100 lbs underweight. He is currently weighing about 250 - 300 lbs.

Today, he has eaten a little herring, and staff are optimistic about his recovery, center spokesman, Jim Oswald, said later this afternoon.

Abagnale is being given antibiotics for the swellings around his muzzle and neck caused by the fishing line, but apart from the malnourishment and dehydration suffered during his three weeks of evading capture, does not have any other health problems, say the veterinarians.

Nevertheless, he is 'a little agitated and very, very wary of humans, which is probably a good thing,' added Jim. Staff at the center hope to be able to return him to the wild and so retaining his instincts as a wild animal will help him adjust once again to his natural environment, he said.

pic shows Abagnale after his rescue - courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center website

Ocean Beach Erosion - Emergency Plans Controversy

The San Francisco Zoo is literally at the centre of a controversy on coastal erosion: whether to slow down the erosion with sand, close part of the Great Highway and possibly re-route traffic around the zoo, or shore up the receding coastline with rocks and keep the highway open.

Also at risk is a massive 10 million gallon wastewater tunnel under the highway that is only feet away from the erosion.

The area was declared an emergency zone a week ago as over 30 ft of coastline at Ocean Beach has eroded in the winter storms, and 70 ft since 2007.

Last night the Ocean Beach Vision Council, responsible for developing a long-term strategy for the beach, held a town hall meeting with local interest groups and residents in the Park Chalet at the end of the Golden Gate Park to debate the issue with the Department of Public Works.

At the heart of the contention are DPW plans to place a protective barrier of large rocks along the beach, in a process known as 'armoring,' and to re-open the road. Project Manager, Frank Filice, who outlined the plans, was opposed by residents, environmentalists and engineers who argued that armoring accelerates the erosion process, hinders surfing and swimming, and access to the beach.

Today the DPW are seeking support from the city's Board of Supervisors to ratify the emergency declaration and allow the armoring to go ahead.

The emergency area now covers 900 ft of bluff, running from Sloat Boulevard past the zoo and the Oceanside Wastewater Treatment Plant.

With El Nino conditions and the recent winter storms, the coastline has not only been eroded by 70 ft in places since 2007 - but has also in part worn away under the Great Highway - the coastal road that runs the length of  California - and is endangering the Lake Merced Wastewater Tunnel, a 14 ft-wide, 10 million gallon facility that serves Daly City.

Efforts to slow the effects of erosion along the coastline have been underway for the last 15 years.

Coastal Engineer, Bob Battalio, and Dean LaTourrette, executive director of Save the Waves Coalition, an organization that works for the preservation of surf spots around the world, and who is also a local resident, both opposed armoring.

Instead, they want to see sand placed on the beach, the highway moved inland and reduced to two lanes with no median, and natural erosion allowed over time to take its course. An alternative, said Bob Battalio, in response to a question from the audience, is to re-route traffic around the zoo.

This 'managed retreat' was proposed by the original Ocean Beach Task Force that met between 1999 and 2003, and Bob Battalio called on the DPW to revert to its findings.

Dean LaTourrette said surfing would be adversely affected by armoring, and there were several surfers on his staff who lived and surfed at Ocean Beach. Furthermore, the DPW had not taken sea rise into consideration, he said. He urged the DPW not to 'try to reinvent the wheel.'

Frank Filice presented the results of the DPW consultations, showing the three options the department had considered: to erect a sand barrier, costing $14 million; an armor stone revetment for $2,578,000; or sand-filled super sacks for $2,564,000.

Closure of the southbound road is affecting 11,660 vehicles daily, according to a 2002 study, he said. Also affected by erosion is the rock crown of a treated wastewater outfall pipe four miles off shore.

The DPW hope to work towards protecting the top of the bluff this year. In the long term, 2010 - 2015, they plan to work with the Army Corps of Engineers, the National Park Service, and other local, state and federal agencies. Plans include rebuilding the beach, protecting the bluff and public infrastructure, and road improvement.

They also aim to 'make every practical effort to preserve and protect wildlife habitats and the natural beauty of Ocean Beach and the surrounding area.'

About 150 people attended the meeting that was convened by Lara Trupellli - pic above - chair of the Ocean Beach Vision Council.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Entangled Pier 39 Sea Lion Rescued At Last!

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!
The entangled Pier 39 sea lion was rescued yesterday afternoon at Moss Landing after 20 failed rescue attempts in three weeks.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!He is now recovering in the Marine Mammal Center headquarters at Sausalito, and sporting the new name of Abagnale, after the con artist in the Leonardo diCaprio movie 'Catch Me If You Can.'

Host unlimited photos at for FREE! His rescuers from the Marine Mammal Center, including two veterinarians, achieved a 'first' in their style of rescue: they shot sedatives into him to slow him down in order to net him. This has never been done before in a free-swimming marine mammal in the wild, say the center, because of risks that too much sedative could cause the animal to drown if he eludes rescue and swims off in the water again.

But Abagnale's condition was deteriorating - he was severely dehydrated and malnourished - and the team were getting desperate.

'We knew that all of our options were running out and that this animal was getting weaker and that he might not live much longer,' said Dr  Frances Gulland, Director of Veterinary Science at The Marine Mammal Center. 'We had to do something to save this animal, especially since he was entangled in marine debris in the first place as a result of human carelessness.'

Veterinarians Dr Nicola Pussini and Dr Bill Van Bonn went out in the team's Zodiac craft.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!'With the boat’s motor off, drifting stealthily toward the sea lion, Dr. Pussini saw the opportunity, and with the first shot, delivered the dart into the animal,' said the center in their press release. The sea lion dived back into the water but then climbed out onto another dock, and Dr Pussini was able to shoot a second into him. The darts were filled with the anti-anxiety sedative, Midazolam.

Once netted, he was lifted into a large metal carrier and then transported via truck to the Center’s Sausalito hospital headquarters.

There, veterinarians anesthetized him and 'removed the monofilament that was deeply imbedded into his neck and mouth.' The sea lion is now on medication and veterinarians will continue to treat his injuries and run tests to see if he suffers from other medical complications.

The sea lion had been spotted on the evening of New Year's Day in Pier 39 with fishing line wrapped tightly around his neck and muzzle. Rescue attempts the following morning failed and volunteeers scoured the bay for him.

But he swam nearly 100 miles south to Moss Landing at Monterey and hauled out on the floating docks there, where the local unit of the marine center made other rescue attempts. Although they noted he was dehydrated and malnourished, in consultation with veterinarians and the National Marine Fisheries Service, they adopted a 'stand down' policy, due to him becoming distressed and concern that rescue attempts were causing the fishing line to tighten.

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!But by the end of yesterday, the team were celebrating.

'It’s a wonderful feeling of relief to be able to rescue this animal, said Sue Pemberton, leader of the Water Rescue Team unit. 'At the end of the day, no matter how difficult a rescue becomes, it is all worth it when we succeed,' she said.

About eight per cent of animals rescued by the center last year were entangled in marine debris.

pics courtesy of the Marine Mammal Center website
Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Pier 39 Sea Lion Party Postponed!

How do you hold a party without the guests of honour?

Even more so, how do you celebrate when an expected 1,700 guests of honour have almost all decided to give the party a miss?

That was the question facing Pier 39 and the Marine Mammal Center who were due to be rolling out the flags today and tomorrow to mark the 20th anniversary of the sea lions' arrival at Fisherman's Wharf.

The sea lions started to congregate there in January 1990, just weeks after the October, 1989, Loma Prieta earthquake. There were between 10 - 50 at first, but by March of that year numbers had risen to over 300.

Party organizers made an initial decision to 'carry on regardless' and celebrate with the few sea lions who have decided that waters aren't blue-er on the other side of the ocean, but now, instead, they have voted to postpone and wait for their barking buddies to return.

'The 20th anniversary of the sea lions’ arrival to Pier 39 is a pivotal one so Pier 39 and The Marine Mammal Center want to make sure that the “guests of honor” are in attendance. We’ve decided to hold a bigger celebration of their mass return a little later this year for all to enjoy,' says Pier 39's press release.

However, Pier 39 and the center have not abandoned their party plans outright. Over today, Friday, Jan 15, and tomorrow, Saturday, Jan 16, docents from the center will be there at K-dock from 11 am until 4 pm, says Sue Muzzin,  Director of Public Relations & Advertising, 'to inform the public about the sea lions and their recent atypical behavior.'

The sea lions' pattern of behaviour this year has been a mystery, swinging from record highs in the fall down to a handful following Thanksgiving.

'Why so many descended on the Pier this year - some 1,701 to be exact – and why so many left all at once, is a mystery, but may certainly have something to do with shifting food sources in the SF Bay,' say Pier 39.

There are reports that hundreds of them have swum north to Sea Lion Caves in Oregon in quest of anchovies. The sea lions normally feed on herring and squid in San Francisco's Bay, and it is known that the herring supply is low this year. Sited 500 miles up the coast, the caves are another tourist attraction.

USA today quotes Kim Raum-Suryan, a biologist at the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, saying that numbers of California sea lions 'had doubled to some 5,000 in December and, like other scientists, figures the simple answer is food.'

'My gut feeling is it has something to do with the (ocean warming) El Nino conditions off California, which is driving prey and sea lions up north,' she is reported to have said.

What she cannot say is how many of the California sea lions there have come from Pier 39. Some sea lions are branded, but those from Fisherman's Wharf are only tagged if they have been treated by the Marine Mammal Center, based in Sausalito, or if they have been part of a scientific study.

The center are licensed to tag for specific scientific studies, but mass tagging would not be considered, said Jim Oswald, spokesman for the center.

'They are healthy, wild animals. It would not be feasible and would be disruptive for them,' he said.

A history of the arrival of the sea lions at Pier 39:

USA Today:

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Rescue for Entangled Pier 39 Sea Lion Still Too Difficult

 Host unlimited photos at for FREE!Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

The entangled Pier 39 sea lion that swum to Monterey was spotted this morning on a floating dock but could not be rescued, says Jim Oswald, spokesman for the Marine Mammal Center.

'He was spotted earlier this morning on a pontoon in a very difficult location,' said Jim, the difficulty being that the sea lion could easily have dived back into the water if approached by rescuers.

The center are going to continue to monitor him and do not know yet when a rescue attempt will be made.

'We need to give the animal some space still. We are keeping his health upmost and will attempt a rescue when it is actually possible,' said Jim.

The 'stand off' decision was made last Friday as the animal was becoming distressed, and amid fears that his escape attempts from rescuers was causing the fishing line to tighten.

The sea lion has eluded rescuers seven times since it was spotted in Monterey, having swum the near-100 miles to Moss Landing. Prior to that, it was first reported injured at Pier 39 late at night on the previous Friday, but slipped into the water before a rescue attempt was made.

pics from the Marine Mammal Center taken last week: the entangled sea lion is joined by another - Deborah Gabris; swimming in Moss Landing Harbor - Sherm Gloub; members of the Marine Mammal Center in Monterey with rescue equipment - Sherm Gloub

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mavericks Surfers Say 'No' to Contest - Again!

Mavericks surfers voted 'no' for a contest today, and have been proven right.

'Mavs just not big enough. Boys gave it a go and just came in,' said their latest tweet at midday.

The surfers, 24 of the world's greatest big-wave surfers, voted on Monday

not to hold the Mavericks Surf Contest today.

Despite forecasts of waves that would be high enough, an expectation of strong winds deterred the surfers from making 'The Call.'

With thousands of fans eager for the contest, organizers have been inundated with emails and phone calls and have also put out a plea for fans to keep their eye on the Mavericks website.

Earlier forecasts had put today's swell at 22 ft Hawaiian but adjusted that to 17-18 ft and lessening for the rest of the week. Contest Co-director, Katherine Clark, had hoped for a 20 ft swell.

pics show the surfers paddling out at the Opening Ceremony in October last year; legendary surfer Dorian 'Doc' Pascowitz with Hawaiian surfer Jamie Sterling and Katherine Clark.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Mavericks Surf Competition Will Not Be This Weekend After All!

Disappointed big-wave surfers and their fans will not be rushing to Half Moon Bay this weekend for the Mavericks Surf Contest. But there is some hope for next week.

The Pacific Ocean has not complied with their wishes that the contest would be held on Sunday.

According to, as the weekend approached, a contest was not looking likely. Waves only of 12 - 13 ft are forecast for Sunday, and tomorrow at 9-10 ft. Tantalizingly, further out to sea a storm is forecast with waves of up to 46 ft.

As stormsurf say on their website, there are 'some glorious waves teasing you off in the distance, so close, but yet oh so far----'

However, they say the next swell building behind it is expected to produce waves of 22 ft on Tuesday - although wavewatch on favours Wednesday. And more good news is that stronger storms are expected in the West Pacific up to early February with influence from El Nino.

The last El Nino was in the 2002/2003 season, and the last strong one that led to flooding in California was in 1997/1998.

Contest Co-director, Katherine Clark, has said the surfers, 24 of the world's best big-wave surfers, would be happy to compete with '20 ft Hawaiian' waves.

It is up to the surfers, most of whom are now congregating in California, to make 'The Call'.
pic shows the surfers in part of their Opening Ceremony

Marine Mammal Center Adopt 'Stand Down' Strategy for Entangled Pier 39 Sea Lion

The Marine Mammal Center are changing their rescue strategy of the entangled Pier 39 sea lion as rescue efforts 'may be causing more harm than good,' center spokesman Jim Oswald said in the wake of another two failed rescue attempts today.
Instead of attempting to capture the animal, rescuers at Moss Landing, Monterey Bay, are going to 'stand down' and give the dehydrated and malnourished animal some space.

There have now been seven failed rescue attempts since the animal showed up at Moss Landing on Wednesday lunchtime, having swum nearly 100 miles from Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf. It was first  reported entangled in what looks like a fishing line at about 10 pm on Friday night.

The concern, said Jim Oswald this afternoon, is that the animal is becoming stressed by the rescue efforts. The sea lion is 'so cogniscent' of all that is happening, he said. A second concern is that the sea lion's escape antics are tightening the line around his neck and muzzle.

In evading rescuers, who made two attempts on Wednesday, three yesterday and two this morning, he is jumping out of nets and up and down from docks in the harbor.  Already, he is malnourished and dehydrated, said Jim.

The animal has been seen lapping sea water, a sign of dehydration. Whether the animal can open his muzzle enough to eat small fish is not known. If the animal is still at Moss Landing next week, efforts to capture him will be renewed on Wednesday or Thursday, said Jim.

The decision to 'stand down' has been taken in consultation with the National Marine Fisheries Service who license the center, and veterinarians.

The Center will continue to monitor the Moss Landing Harbor and other areas. Video of the rescue attempts on Wednesday were filmed by CBS5 and the video has been posted on the center website along with their own photos.

Center Director, Jeff Boehm, has also written a public explanation of the reasons behind the center's decision to postpone making a rescue at Pier 39 until daylight on Saturday morning.

'Center staff elected to wait until morning to attempt to rescue the animal and that response surprised, angered and frustrated many,' he said, and goes on to explain the dangers and difficulties of animal rescues.

'In this situation, my staff responded in a manner that reflected concern for the animal’s best interests, and the safety of the Center’s volunteers and staff. In what was an important and critical assessment, compassion may have seemed lacking, but I can assure you it wasn’t. We care deeply about each stranded seal or sea lion that is reported to us—we wouldn’t be in this line of work if that wasn’t the case. I also want to assure you that the approach we take is based on 35 years of experience in rescuing and treating more than 15,000 marine mammals.'

For the full text of Jeff Boehm's response, further info + video:

Jeff Boehm's response can be accessed in the report titled 'Rescue efforts continue for three entangled California sea lions.'

pics taken for Marine Mammal Center and posted on their website:
sea lion sitting upright - Deborah Gabris; rescuer approaching the sea lion on the first day - Sherm Gloub ; sea lion on the dock - Sherm Gloub  

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Injured Sea Lion Believed to be from Pier 39 Discovered at Monterey - But Escapes from Rescuers!

An injured and trussed sea lion, believed to be the one from Pier 39, was found this lunchtime 100 miles down the coast in Monterey Bay - but has eluded rescuers for the second time.

A call to the Marine Mammal Center at Moss Landing was received at 1 pm said a rescue spokesman this evening. Although there has not been a positive identification that it is the same sea lion, the animal had similar entanglements around his neck and muzzle and rescuers say there is a 'good chance' that it is the missing one.

'We mobilized a rescue unit with a water rescue team,' said the spokesman, which meant there were people both in the water and on the dock.

They made two attempts to capture the sea lion. On the first, at 3.00 pm, they were able to get within reach of him, but he slipped away. However, he resurfaced on another dock and a second attempt was made at 3.30 pm.

Rescuers had him in a net in the water, but 'by then he was very aware of our intentions,' said the spokesman, and he escaped.

Since then he has not resurfaced at Moss Landing but he is thought to be around the area.

One of the concerns about the animal when it was at Pier 39 was that the entanglement, that looked like a fishing line, was preventing him from eating.

'He is definitely thin, moderately underweight,' said the spokesman, but the 'good news', he added, is that sea lions are hardy animals and can endure weeks or even months with an entanglement before they are freed.

Were rescuers surprised to have found him as far away as Monterey?

'It's not unusual. These guys can travel large distances to Oregan and southern California,' he said.

The Marine Mammal Center at Moss Landing is part of the same unit in Sausalito from where the original search was launched. Jim Oswald, media spokesman for the Sausalito headquarters, said that eight members of the Monterey team had been involved in the rescue.

The animal had looked lethargic as rescuers approached within 12 ft, said Jim, giving the appearance of a much higher chance of a successful rescue, but he was 'much more "up" if you will.' On the first attempt they approached the animal from behind, and even though he dived off the dock into a kamikaze net in the water, he got out of the net and away.

Controversy has surrounded the initial finding of the sea lion at 10 pm on Friday night, regarding the Marine Mammal Center's refusal to attempt to rescue him until daylight the following morning. Conditions at Pier 39 were 'extremely dangerous,' said Jim.

The animal looked tantalizingly close, lying on the float in K-Dock. Could someone not have snipped the entanglement at least off his muzzle?

Jim agreed that camera footage had shown a docile animal but said that on approach an animal like that is likely to jump away. Also they did not know if the fishing line had embedded hooks into his neck.

'We don't know enough,' he said, and safety of both people and the animal was the main concern.

The sea lion was on a moving float without lights. Even if there were lights at the pier, the lights would not be able to be moved around to follow the animal in the water, he said.

Another hazard, he had since discovered, was what lies under the water in K-Dock. There is all kind of debris, trash and metal, he said. 'So that's why you want to be in daylight to see what is going on.'

With an animal rescue, he said, 'you get one chance. You have to make the most of the opportunity.'

For now, the center is on the alert for the sea lion and two others also reported with entanglements. One was seen at Hyde Street Pier and the other at Belvedere, beyond the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Marine Mammal Center has triage units in Sausalito, where a new center, four years in the building, opened last year, Moss Landing and Morro Bay. It covers a 600-mile stretch along the California coastline, from Mendocino County to San Luis Obispo County.

pics show volunteer Marjorie Boor searching for the sea lion on Saturday morning at Pier 39, and sea lions at the pier

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Mavericks No Vote Tomorrow but Contest May Be On Sunday!

The Mavericks big-wave surf contest may now be held at Half Moon Bay on Sunday instead of Friday or Saturday.

Mavericks surfers have postponed voting on whether or not to call the contest. Yesterday, they were due to vote on Wednesday or Thursday for contests that would take place on Friday or Saturday.

When the much-anticipated 'contest call' is made by the 24 invitees to the Mavericks Surf Contest, they have just 24 hours to get there. The invitees are some of the world's greatest big-wave surfers, and this year's competition carries a record roll-over prize of $150,000.

Contest Co-director, Katherine Clark, said early this evening that the vote had been postponed to Friday, when they were hoping to predict a Pacific swell that would produce consistent 20ft waves throughout Sunday.

However, at the Opening Ceremony in November, veteran Mavericks surfer, Grant Washburn, described a wave with a 40 ft face as 'smallish' for Mavericks. His perfect wave was a smooth 50 footer. Anything over 60 ft, for the three-times contestant finalist who has been surfing there for 20 years, was too big!

'I don't want to get into that,' said Katherine, referring to the technicalities of wave measurement.

But she said she was referring to what is known as a  '20ft Hawaiian' wave, and the surfers would be happy with that.

Most of the surfers are already along the Californian coastline, with some in Hawaii and one in South Africa.

Contest sponsors are Sony Ericsson and Barracuda Networks.

For updates on the contest:

pics show the invitees and Alternates at the Opening Ceremony; Grant Washburn with 19-year-old Colin Dwyer of Pacifica, one of the Alternates

for Grant's interview at the Opening Ceremony: 

Monday, January 4, 2010

No Sight of Injured Pier 39 Sea Lion but Missing Sea Lion Colony may be Returning

The injured and entangled sea lion that slipped in a distressed state into the sea at Pier 39 early Saturday morning has still not been found - but some of the sea lion colony that mysteriously disappeared in November returned today.

Sue Muzzin, Pier 39's Director of Public Relations and Advertizing, said of the injured sea lion, 'There has not been a sighting of him since Saturday.'

She confirmed that members of the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito called off their boat search at the end of yesterday. They had patrolled the bay around the Embarcadero, Hyde Street Pier and Alcatraz for two days.
The seal, thought to be a male weighing around 350-375 lbs, was spotted at about 10 pm on Friday night in K-Dock at the pier at Fisherman's Wharf. On-lookers were critical of the center when Erin Brodie, Stranding Coordinator, said it would be too dangerous to attempt a rescue in the dark on a slippery float.

The rescue attempt was postponed until daylight, but the sea lion suddenly slipped into the water and vanished just before 7 am on Saturday. He was bound around the neck and muzzle with what appeared to be a fishing line.

Since then two other sea lions with entanglements have been reported.

One was seen at Hyde Street Pier late on Saturday afternoon and a rescue attempt begun, but the animal went back into the sea. The other has been spotted at Belvedere, north of the Golden Gate Bridge.

'The Marine Mammal Center is ready for any kind of rescue they can provide,' said Sue Muzzin.

At the same time, there has been another unexpected happening. There appears to be a return of some of the sea lion colony that vanished from Pier 39 late November. From record numbers of over 1,500 animals in the fall, the herd suddenly became a handful.

However, at 11 am today, Harbormaster Sheila Candor counted 20 sea lions congregating on the floats. Even though the Harbormaster counted 26 sea lions in the area last Wednesday, said Sue Muzzin, it is the first time since the mass exodus that there have been so many together.

'We think that's a promising sign,' she said. Certainly, walking up the pier this afternoon, a familiar barking had replaced the ghostly silence of the last few weeks.

Does she think they will return? She quoted Marine Mammal Center Director Jeff Boehm, saying that staff "were not concerned, just curious."

'We believe that they will be back,' she said. 'It will make all the staff of Pier 39 very happy. We miss them.'

The sea lions have generated enormous media interest. This afternoon as I interviewed Sue, she had just finished a call to a blogger with the New York Times.

pics show the sea lions on the float at Pier 39; the viewing platform full once more; tourists showing interest in the Marine Mammal Center information box on Pier 39, with illustrations of a sea lion rescue; a lone sea lion once again swimming in Mission Creek, further down the bay

2009/2010 Mavericks Surf Contest May Be Called This Weekend!

Mavericks surfers are watching the jet stream and swells out in the Pacific, in the chance that the annual big-wave surf competition might just be held this week.

Their latest tweet says, 'Pacific is pretty active, but we need the jet stream to come together.'

Contest co-director Katherine Clark said the surfers had been put on alert to vote on Wednesday and Thursday.

 A 'yes' vote on Wednesday will mean a contest on Friday, a vote on Thursday will see the surfers hitting the waves on Saturday.

'The Call', when it is made, will have 24 of the world's greatest big-wave surfers rushing to Half Moon Bay, south of San Francisco.

If the contest isn't called then, 'right behind it is another swell,' said Katherine. But the surfers are on their toes for this weekend.

'Everybody's on call,' she said - and under orders from the Maverick's Matriarch to 'start paying attention!'

But 'The Call' rests with the surfers, the big change in the running of the contest since Mavericks pioneer Jeff Clark is no longer Contest Director and calling the contest himself.

'It's their job and they're taking it very seriously,' Katherine said.

After tonight, she added, they would have a clearer idea of the likelihood of a contest. 'The season is really starting to come together. We've had about ten days when they could surf,' she added, expecting  that El Nino would further enhance swells.

The surfers are now close at hand. Many are living locally around Half Moon Bay, San Francisco, Santa Cruz and southern California. Those who live in Hawaii are still there - 'there's been some great waves in Hawaii'. Furthest away is Chris Bertish who is in South Africa. His fellow countryman, Grant 'Twiggy' Baker, has been living in San Francisco since just after the contest window opened on November 1.

Reigning champion Greg Long is in his home area in southern California. He is a strong contender for the crown having won the prestigious Eddie Aikau big-wave contest in Hawaii in December.

The Mavericks contest takes place about half a mile off shore, just off Pillar Point at Half Moon Bay. It is considered to be one of the most dangerous surfing spots in the world, with thunderous waves, rocks and frigid temperatures.

When the contest is called - and last year there was no contest due to a lack of swell - an expected 40,000 fans will cram along the shoreline. Millions of others will either be in the Giants' AT & T ballpark in San Francisco for a live broadcast or watching on TVs and computers.

As the popularity of the contest grows, the Mavericks organization are using digital technology to make it more accessible than ever.

The contest is sponsored by Sony Ericsson and Barracuda Networks with a record roll-over prize of $150,000.

To keep an eye on the 'contest call':

Pics show Ryan Seelbach, Alex Martins, Chris Bertish at the Opening Ceremony; Katherine Clark with 'Doc' Pascowitz and surfers

Sunday, January 3, 2010

No Sign of Injured Pier 39 Sea Lion

There were no signs of any sightings today of the two sea lions from Fisherman's Wharf that had been spotted entangled in what are thought to be fishing lines.

Members of the Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito spent hours yesterday searching for the first of the injured sea lions shown in filming by CBS5 to be both injured and trussed around his neck and muzzle.

The distressed animal was seen at Pier 39 and reported to the center late on Friday night, but a rescue was postponed until daylight the following day. In the interim, the sea lion vanished back into the water.

Then at Hyde Street Pier late yesterday afternoon, a sighting of a second sea lion with possibly a fishing line around it's neck was reported and a rescue attempt made, but this animal also disappeared back into the sea.

Members of the center have continued to search with one craft, but are also on a 'watch and wait' mode, hoping that the sea lions will either haul out in daylight for a rescue attempt to be made, or that they will be sighted in the bay.

 At Fisherman's Wharf this afternoon, a slightly larger number of sea lions than were there yesterday were stretched out on the end pontoon.

pics show the sea lions at 1 pm on the pontoon, and catching the interest of tourists on the Blue & Gold Fleet ferry; the bay at the end of Pier 39 with Alcatraz in the background; the view from Hyde Street Pier looking across Aquatic Park at North Beach, with only swimmers in the water.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Hunt for Injured Pier 39 Sea Lion

A sea hunt for an injured sea lion spotted yesterday by tourists at Pier 39 has been underway from early this morning.

The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito sent out a small craft at daylight to scour the bay.

The sea lion was seen yesterday on a float down the front of Pier 39 at Fisherman's Wharf with what NBC11 reported as wire or netting wrapped around his muzzle and possibly rope around his neck.

However, although members of the Marine Mammal Center went late at night to see the sea lion, early this morning it slipped off the float and disappeared into the bay. Marjorie Boor, a volunteer with the center who was at the helm of the search craft, said she thought it had gone back into the water sometime around 6.30 to 7.00 am.

The sea lion is considered to be a 'pretty big' male, weighing around 350-375 pounds.

'We are in "watch and wait" mode, Marjorie said, having pulled up her craft in K-Dock just before midday.

She wasn't sure of the extent of the injuries or entanglement. There was a possibility the sea lion had managed to shake the noose off his muzzle and was able to swim and feed unhampered. 'Basically, he's going out to forage,' she said.

'The worse case scenario is that he won't be able to eat, he'll be so weak we'll be able to pick him up, take him to the center and fatten him up.' She was confident that the sea lion, if still in distress, would be found over the next couple of days because injured sea lions haul out, she said.

Her search was taking her between Pier 39 and Alcatraz, where there were bull seals, and around the Embarcadero and Hyde Street Pier.

It has been reported by NBC11 that early onlookers were critical of the apparent lack of action taken by the Marine Mammal Center.

However, Marjorie said that trying to pick up sea lions that are not restrained and secure is a risky business.

'They are intelligent. You can look them in the eye and tell there's some connection there. But make no mistake, they'll bite your arm right off.'

Anaesthesia was also not the answer, she said. To pick up a sea lion, a 'kamikaze' net would need to be put around the float. But sea lions can twist their necks quickly in a figure of 8, flip out of the net and slip into the water and disappear.

The danger to the sea lion is that if it flipped out before the drug had taken effect, it would die in the sea. The other problem generally with an anaesthetic is that it masks the condition of an animal. We need to know 'how up is it?' she said.

'The last thing we want to do is pick up an animal. They're better at healing themselves than we are.'

Marjorie was the only person from the center searching the bay because it is a land-based operation and is not equipped or licensed to pick up wild animals in the sea, she added.

What did she think of the missing herd of sea lions from Pier 39 who from being at record numbers of over 1,500 animals in the fall and rising to 1,700, had mysteriously dwindled to a handful by the end of November? And where did she think they might be?

They had gone in search of food, she said, listing some of the places she thought they would be: the Farallon Islands, Moss Beach, the Channel Islands, off the southern California coast, and Año Nuevo Island, where there is a herd of elephant seals.

The sea lions have famously been at Pier 39 for exactly 20 years this month, moving there in the aftermath of the Loma Prieta earthquake. Although they are migratory, their numbers have never been so low.

'I've seen them disappear before, but I've seen them come back!' said Marjorie.

'They'll be back!'

pics show news crews and a few early morning tourists scanning K-Dock; a handful of midday tourists with only three sea lions and themselves to photograph

An on-the-spot report by CBS5 journalist, Joe Vazquez, not only captures the plight of the injured sea lion on camera but details the conflict between Erin Brodie, Stranding Coordinator of the Marine Mammal Center, who said protocols prevented a nighttime rescue attempt, and members of the public who wanted to see immediate intervention.

Tonight there are reports of a second sea lion being spotted with entanglements at Hyde Street Pier at the opposite end of Fisherman's Wharf. Jim Oswald, media spokesperson for the Marine Mammal Center, is reported on CBS5 as saying that two rescue attempts failed and the sea lion slipped back into the sea.